Fire Science Degree Programs in South Carolina | Firefighter Training
Written by Kathleen Swed Last Updated: Feb 10, 2020
With plenty of variety for career and volunteer firefighters in municipal and rural areas, plus training opportunities for those interested in wildland firefighting, South Carolina has plenty to offer to aspiring firefighters.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 5% increase in demand for firefighters across the country from 2018-2028, which aligns with average projections for other occupations. Projections Central indicates an even more positive growth outlook for South Carolina firefighters, with job opportunities projected to rise by 7.9% from 2016-2026.
On this page, readers can learn more about how to become a firefighter in South Carolina, including information on how firefighter requirements in South Carolina vary among locations. Read on for answers to frequently asked questions, information on academic and training programs, occupational statistics and salary data, and resources for firefighters in South Carolina.
Firefighter requirements in South Carolina vary by local jurisdiction. Most departments in South Carolina set a minimum age of 18 and require candidates to hold a high school diploma or GED certificate.
Beyond these baseline requirements, qualifications can differ dramatically. Greenville requires applicants to hold firefighter II certification, which meets the standards set forth by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Florence provides this training as part of the city's fire academy program. Greenville also prefers emergency medical technician (EMT) certification upon application and requires firefighters to obtain it by the end of their first year. In Charleston, recruits without EMT certification simply extend their time in the academy.
Columbia requires minimum standards for firefighter applicants, but firefighters can earn higher salaries when they hold an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree, and the city offers bonuses for firefighters with EMT and hazmat certifications.
Testing also varies by jurisdiction. In Lexington, candidates must pass written and oral examinations before admittance to the recruit program. Florence also requires a written examination, while Charleston only requires a physical abilities test.
Requirements for volunteer firefighters may differ. Typically, volunteers do not need to complete training. In Columbia, volunteer firefighters augment the career crew. Volunteers must be at least 18 years of age with no felony convictions, hold a high school diploma or its equivalent, maintain residential proximity, and have a clean driving record.
Becoming a Firefighter in South Carolina: Frequently Asked Questions
What is the specific training for South Carolina?
In towns such as Florence or Greenville which require or provide firefighter II training, firefighters must master skills in firefighter communications, building construction, firefighter tools, ladders, and forcible entry.
Is EMT/paramedic/other training or certification required?
Some towns, such as Greenville, require EMT certification prior to application. Others provide it as part of their training programs, or do not require it at all. In Columbia, firefighters can increase their salary by obtaining EMT and other certifications.
What is the test like for firefighters in South Carolina?
Pre-academy written tests generally evaluate a candidate's abilities in reading comprehension, written communication, and math. Lexington's fire academy requires practical and written tests for graduation.
What kind of shape should I be in to be a firefighter?
Firefighters must maintain good physical condition to adequately perform their duties. Many departments, such as those in Charleston and Lexington, require physical fitness and/or agility tests as part of the application process.
What if I only want to fight wildfires in South Carolina?
The South Carolina Forestry Commission manages wildfire suppression efforts when fires occur outside of city limits. The commission trains firefighters to respond to wildfires and works with rural fire departments to coordinate wildfire suppression efforts.
How long does it take to become a firefighter in South Carolina?
In Charleston, the fire academy lasts 26 weeks for those without EMT certification and 18 weeks for those who already hold it. Candidates looking for higher pay rates in Columbia may opt to pursue an academic degree, which can take 2-4 years or more.
Firefighter Courses and Programs in South Carolina
Aspiring and veteran firefighters seeking educational opportunities in South Carolina may opt to pursue an academic program leading to a fire science certificate or bachelor's degree, or to obtain one of many certifications available through the state fire marshal. Some locations, including Columbia, reward postsecondary degrees and certifications through salary increases and bonuses. Graduates may find accelerated paths to career advancement through higher education.
Because firefighter requirements in South Carolina can require drastically different qualifications depending on the town or county, prospective students should research the jurisdiction of their choice before enrolling in an academic program.
Designed for both new and in-service firefighters seeking further training, HGTC's 36-credit fire science certificate requires general education courses, including communications, introduction to business, and American government. Learners also complete nine credits of approved National Fire Academy training in subjects such as fire investigation, hazardous materials, fire prevention, and incident management.
Offered entirely online, Columbia College's 120-credit bachelor's degree program requires 47 credits of major requirements and electives. Coursework includes fire science, fire-related human behavior and community risk reduction, applications of fire research, fire dynamics, hazardous materials management, fire protection structures and systems, and hazard mapping and modeling.
The South Carolina Office of the State Fire Marshal offers a wealth of NFPA-accredited training opportunities for aspiring and experienced firefighters seeking state licensure. Coursework includes firefighter I and II, fire officer I and II, emergency vehicle driver training, pump operations, hazardous materials, firefighter survival, and wildland firefighting.
Fire Science Colleges in South Carolina
Firefighter Salaries and Job Growth in South Carolina
BLS reports that South Carolina employed 5,330 firefighters as of May 2018, a number that falls well below those employed in the bordering states of North Carolina and Georgia. The disparity makes sense, however, considering that just over five million people call South Carolina home, while Georgia and North Carolina both contain over 10 million residents.
South Carolina's Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort area employed the highest concentration of metropolitan firefighters in the nation, at 6.83 firefighters for every 1,000 jobs and a location quotient of 3.07.
South Carolina met regional salary standards in the same time period, with firefighters earning an annual mean wage of $36,300 and an hourly wage of $17.45. Firefighters in the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort area earned salaries ranking among the high ranges in the state, with an annual mean wage of $42,680. Firefighters in the Florence area earned among the lowest salaries in the state at $28,450.
Firefighters in South Carolina rely on a variety of resources to help them advance toward their career goals and aid them in their pursuit of excellence. Through the state fire marshal and the forestry commission, firefighters can obtain crucial resources for learning, providing public education, and increasing their employability.
Professional organizations also provide important services for volunteer and professional firefighters, including leaders in the field. Through conferences, training events, educational standards, and legislative advocacy, these organizations equip firefighters with the resources they need. The list below offers details on a few resources for firefighters in South Carolina.